Results for the regular local election are still incomplete as Valencia County’s eight-person election board hand tallies thousands of ballots for the five write-in candidates on this year’s ballot.
This year, three different races drew write-in candidates — three for one of the Los Lunas at-large seats on the UNM-Valencia Advisory Board and one each in the Belen Board of Education District 1 and 2 races.
That has resulted in nearly all of the 8,272 ballots cast county wide in this election being hand counted by the board to total the write-in votes.
Valencia County Bureau of Elections director Candace Teague said as the ballots are counted, every name written in has to be tallied, whether it’s that of a declared candidate or not, as well as ballots left blank.
Results for all other races and any tax questions on the ballots with write-in candidates have already been tallied by machine and are part of the preliminary numbers posted on the New Mexico Secretary of State’s website.
“We are only hand tallying the write-in positions,” Teague said. “Once that is done, we then have to enter the results precinct by precinct, polling place by polling place.”
With county offices closed today, Friday, Nov. 10, in observance of Veterans Day, the hand counting has been suspended, but should be completed on Monday, she said.
Two races in Valencia County have been flagged by the SOS for a possible automatic recount — the Valencia Soil and Water Conservation District landowner seats and Rio Communities City Council.
Both races, along with the rest of the election results, have to be canvassed by the Valencia County Commission as well as the secretary of state’s office before a recount could occur.
An automatic recount is required when the canvass shows the margin between the two candidates receiving the greatest number of votes for an office is less than 1 percent of the total votes cast in the election for that office.
In the VSWCD race, a total of 11,267 votes were cast, meaning candidates needed to be separated by at least 113 votes to avoid an automatic recount.
A field of five candidates are vying for three seats — two four-year terms and one two-year term, which completes the term of the late Joseph Moya. The two candidates with the most votes will take the four-year terms, while the one with the third most will serve the two-year term.
In the lead, is Nicholas Baca with 3,628 votes, or 32 percent of the votes, 1,599 more than his closest competitor. He is followed by incumbent Abel Camarena with 2,029 votes and James Fischer with 2,016. While separated by 13 votes, both Camarena and Fischer have 18 percent of the vote currently.
David Neff also has 18 percent, but he is 35 votes behind Fischer with 1,981, and incumbent Duana Draszkiewicz received 1,613 votes, 14 percent of the total cast.
In the Rio Communities race, there are two seats open on the council, which will go to the two candidates with the most votes. The margin between the top two candidates exceeds the 1 percent threshold however there is a tie between two candidates.
With 1,232 votes cast in the race, incumbent Jim Winters and challenger Thomas Nelson both received 302 votes, 25 percent of the votes cast.
Matthew Marquez currently leads the field of four candidates with 346 votes, 28 percent. Richard Henderson received 282 votes, or 23 percent.
If Winters and Nelson remain tied after the results are canvassed, the outcome will most likely be determined by lot, as per state statute. That has traditionally has been interpreted as a game of chance, such as a high card draw or throw of the dice.
For example, in 2021 the race for village council in House was tied. According to an article in the Las Cruces Sun News, two candidates drew cards to decide which one would serve.
Julia M. Dendinger began working at the VCNB in 2006. She covers Valencia County government, Belen Consolidated Schools and the village of Bosque Farms. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists Rio Grande chapter’s board of directors.